It’s official, the New York Times made a “Wrong Choice” when they illustrated their story of the murder of sleeping soldier Eden Atias with a picture of the mother of his evil murderer. Aussie Dave one of the first to express horror at this image being chosen and we weren’t alone. The paper received a torrent of public and private correspondence.
Here’s what they don’t say in their apology:
- Who did it, they don’t name the editor responsible or the editors in the chain;
- What is their past record on similar issues especially in Israel;
- What steps are they putting in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again (and again, and again);
- When are they going to get around to firing someone for this kind of stuff.
Looks like the NYT have pulled ahead of Ha’aretz this week in the evil stakes…. but don’t hold your breath, it’s only Tuesday.
Aussie Dave adds: The photo was only part of the problem. As I described in my post, the headline and content of the report was just as bad.
Brian of London adds: They haven’t updated the original online version of the story as of 20:58 Israel time (image below). h/t Gavin Gross.
By MARGARET SULLIVAN
Hundreds of readers wrote to me in recent days to protest the prominent use of a photograph that accompanied an article in The Times last Thursday.
The photograph was an emotional and sympathetic portrait of a distraught Palestinian woman, whose son had killed an unsuspecting young Israeli soldier on a public bus. Although it was a powerful image (in fact, partly because it was such a powerful image), it was a poor choice, failing to put the focus where it belonged.
Allan Lieberman of Long Island expressed outrage and accused The Times of bias, as many other readers did. “In the eyes of The New York Times, Israeli victims of terror are mere footnotes to a one-sided narrative of Palestinian suffering and Israeli responsibility for that suffering,” he wrote to me in an email.
Freya Morrison of Toronto wrote: “Using a photo of the murderer’s mother to represent the item regarding the fatal stabbing of Eden Atias is the epitome of slanted journalism and bad taste. Let’s get it straight. The Israeli soldier is the victim here. How dare you make it appear otherwise?”
I spoke on Monday afternoon to two senior editors at The Times. Both agreed that the photo was a regrettable choice. The dominant image with an article should reflect the overall point of the article and the reason for its newsworthiness.
“This did not represent the essence of the story, which was clearly the moment of the Israeli soldier being stabbed,” said Michele McNally, the assistant managing editor in charge of photography. She said a less-senior picture editor chose the photograph, along with one representing what she considered the other side of the story, which showed an Israeli police officer at the crime scene.
The selection of the Palestinian mother’s “art” with the article was an effort to achieve balance, but such an effort was not appropriate in this case, Ms. McNally said. In the print editions of the newspaper, the two photographs were published on an inside page with the offending photograph above the other. On the website and in other digital presentations, the Palestinian photograph was by far the more dominant image and remains so.
It was only later in the news cycle that photographs of the soldier’s funeral — which would have been an appropriate choice for a dominant image — became available, she said. (A photograph of the victim would also have been appropriate, she said.)
“We should have waited for that or substituted it once it came,” she said.
Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the subjects I hear the most about, with readers on both sides convinced that The Times is biased.
The foreign editor, Joseph Kahn, told me that reporters and editors do their utmost to present news on this topic accurately and fairly.
“We are, have been and need to be very attuned to the message that images, as well as words, send to readers on one of the most delicate subjects The New York Times covers,” Mr. Kahn said. “We don’t always get it right.”
The prominent use of this photograph was a case of getting it wrong.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 19, 2013
An earlier version of this blog post referred incorrectly to the positioning of two photographs in the print edition of The Times. One was atop the other; they were not side by side